Sunday, August 12, 2012

Young Explorers Booklist Block 1

Things are a-happenin' this fall let me tell you!

First item of business. Young Explorers Learning Group. I have planned a community homeschool pilot project for a 4-week block scheduled this fall. I'll be mentoring a group of children, ages 6-10, for two mornings a week and I am so pumped for this! Our group will not be your typical homeschool get-together-for-some-group-learning-and-crafts; no. Rather, first and foremost we will be rooted in the classics and socratic discussion. This age is prime for learning core lessons such as right versus wrong, good versus bad, true versus false - using literature as our vehicle and allowing the kids to come to conclusions on their own (not take it away from them or "tell them the answers.") What makes a hero? What is courage and how do I get it? What does it mean to be honest? Brave? What makes a house a home? What is a villainous character and what happens to them? Socratic discussion is based on asking questions, it begs one to think and form an opinion; in this case based on a set of experiences within the confines of great literature. All the lofty ideas we aim to come face to face with. We will also be doing living math, living science, and fine arts (art, drama, music appreciation). Gonna be so good.

Within a few hours of sending out the initial announcement and invitation to join the community homeschool pilot project, 5 of my 8 spots were filled. And a few days later, the 6th. I have only 2 spots left, friends, if you're thinking about it, before I cast out a wider net in the local homeschool world.

In the meantime, I've been carefully selecting the read-aloud list for block 1. Our group will read and discuss together - there will not be any reading preparation for the kids to do at home. We are going to discover it all together! In choosing titles, I wanted the piece to not only delight but to provide a good basis for discussion of core lessons and great ideas. The piece had to be doable in a 4 week block with no carry-overs (although we may at times include only excerpts of good classic literature). And, I was aware of the fact that the kids may have already been exposed to many of the really popular children's classics (like Little House on the Prairie, A Little Princess, Gullivers Travels, etc). Not to say we won't do them, but just not in Block 1. I'm hoping most of the material here is fresh for them.

1.The 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey - we'll cover one habit each day

2. The Olive Fairy Book compiled by Andrew Lang  - We'll read "Samba the Coward."  Do you know the Fairy Books? They are classics, there are 13 differentiated by color, and are full of worthy tales and stories from around the world. Many available free on the handy dandy kindle.

3. Tolkien's Tales from the Perilous Realm. With "The Hobbit" being released in theatres this fall, the kids have been reading a lot of Tolkien. For that reason, I'm sure they will be receptive to hearing some of his lesser-known but equally awesome short stories found in this treasury. We won't do all of them, but either Roverandom or Farmer Giles of Ham.
4. The Proud Grain of Wheat by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is a lovely short story about a grain of wheat who thinks he's better and finer than all the rest. Great jumping point to discuss the virtue of humility and the consequences of pride. And the really exciting part is along the way we are going to view some artwork depicting wheat in all its stages (think Van Gogh's The Sower; Sheaves of Wheat, etc). This story is found in a collection of novels and short stories by Burnett, author of The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and the likes. I am currently reading The Little Princess to Alexa (6). Not only does she love it, but its reaching her heart and making her think - exactly our goal. Had to include something by Frances HB for sure! 

5. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner. Another heartwarming story about courage. Some of the kids may have read this one already, but a classic is a classic because you can come back to it again and again, and learn something new each time. And be changed for the better.

6. Children's Classics in Dramatic Form by Augusta Stevenson.  Oh, this is a find. It is a collection classic fables and tales, (Aesop, Andersen, Grimm) adapted into short little plays. Each play only has 2-3 characters and are simple enough to read and perform. Then discuss. Then perform again :). Free on Kindle!!

7. Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit. We'll probably do The Tempest or Romeo & Juliet, but I haven't fully decided. Never too young for a little Shakespeare, child-style though. As my friend said, is there any Shakespeare play that doesn't have something inappropriate for children in it? Don't worry, I'll be highly selective and careful with what's presented. On that note, when reading aloud to my own children, I'm pretty good about replacing words like "stupid" with "silly," etc. I'll do the same in any group read-alouds.

8. I'm debating over a couple of others. They are Pearl's Promise by Frank Asch, great little story about a mouse who escapes a pet store and promises to save her brother from a hungry snake AND keep her family together. GREAT story about courage, heroism, bravery, promises and keeping your word. But, in one small episode Pearl ends up seeing a fortune-teller's cat who gives her information from the crystal ball,(quite humorous yes), but not sure I want to have to explain fortune-tellers and crystal balls to the kids. I don't. Maybe I can edit this section out? The story is a page-turner and would appeal to all.  I'm also in the middle of pre-reading the classic Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. So far it has all the elements in a good piece of literature - heroines Bonny (rough and tumble) and cousin Sylvia (frail); wolves on the loose; the villainous and cruel Miss Slighcarp who plots against Bonny and Sylvia while Bonny's parents are away; and Simon the gooseboy who lives in the forest ... so far so good on this one.  And lastly, we'll add some great poetry into the mix. I have lots of that!

Lofty list? That's ok. We don't have to make it through everything, there's no rush. I'm optimistic that however far we dive in, we will savour the journey and enjoy the process!

I'll post later about our living math and living science plan.
'Till then, God bless your week!

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